If you’ve ever had hotdogs, hamburger or French fries, chances are you’ve topped them with tomato ketchup. Tomato ketchup is probably one of the most widely used condiments in the world. And while you might think that its only value is to improve the taste of food, you’d be surprised to know that this famous red sauce also offers health benefits derived from its main ingredient—tomatoes.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, the substance that gives tomatoes their rich red color. Lycopene has long been associated with several health benefits, some of which are listed below. Just remember though that tomato ketchup contains considerable amount of sodium and sugar, so go easy on it.
Lycopene’s heart-protecting capabilities stem from its function as an antioxidant, which helps reduce the risk of fat oxidation. Oxidized fat develops into plaque that sticks to the walls of blood vessels. Slowly, this can narrow and block blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis and other heart problems.
Breast Cancer Prevention
There is well documented evidence of reduced risk of breast cancer in association with lycopene intake. This should not be a surprise as lycopene has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Risk for many cancers start with oxidative stress and chronic undesirable inflammation.
New research suggests that antioxidant protection may be significant for bone tissue protection. One study showed that postmenopausal women had more signs of oxidative stress in their bones and undesirable changes in their bone tissue after tomatoes and other lycopene-rich foods were removed from their diet.
Researchers suggest that lycopene and other antioxidants found in tomatoes prevent free radicals from upsetting the balance between new bone formation and bone loss that naturally comes with old age. When bone loss exceeds bone formation, this causes bones to become brittle and may eventually develop into osteoporosis.
In a study published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, test participants who ate a lycopene-rich diet together with lycopene supplements had increased levels of carotenoids in their skin, including lycopene and beta-carotene.
High levels of lycopene in the skin afford protection from oxidative damage caused by exposure to the sun and other environmental pollutants, resulting in smoother skin. It also blocks harmful ultraviolet rays though it does not altogether dispel the need for sun screen.
Promotes Male Fertility
A recent study published by the Cleveland Clinic revealed that lycopene can help improve male fertility. The study reviewed 12 studies from around the world, all of which showed that lycopene increased sperm count by 70% and enhanced their swimming speed. It also reduced the number of abnormal sperm. Other studies revealed that lycopene helps reduce diseases of the prostate and may even halt or slow down the development of prostate cancer.